The career of Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been punctuated by so much drama, so many triumphs and tragedies, it has taken on an almost-mythical quality. Now, the leader that rapid Apple fans see as the white knight of the technology world has set off on another mythical quest to slay a new dragon.
So, it seems appropriate to look back on the sometimes-thorny path Jobs has taken, as well as the four dragons that he has slain. And, of course, we'll look at the new dragon that Jobs is hunting.
The myth of Steve
Jobs burst on the scene in the late 1970s as the boy leader who became the evangelist of the personal computer revolution. In 1984, he led the team at Apple that brought the graphical user interface to the masses with the Macintosh.
Then, just as quickly as he had burst upon the business world, his world imploded. In a failed struggle for power and control at Apple, he got kicked out of his own company in 1985 and went into exile. He was a rich has-been by the age of 30.
Over the following decade, his two new companies -- NeXT Computer and Pixar Animation - quietly made some important breakthroughs in computing but struggled financially and started bleeding away the $100 million fortune that Jobs had made at Apple.
Jobs launched a coup to reclaim his white knight status in the mid-1990s. His first bit of redemption came with Pixar in 1995 when Toy Story became the highest grossing animated feature of all time and Pixar rode that acclaim to a very successful IPO, orchestrated by Jobs himself. Once the IPO launched, it instantly turned Jobs into a billionaire.
His next bit of redemption was even sweeter. At the end of 1996, a badly-struggling Apple decided to purchase NeXT to help reinvent itself as a technology innovator. Jobs initially joined Apple as an advisor as part of the NeXT deal, but he quickly convinced the Apple board to get rid of its leader, Gil Amelio. As a result, Jobs was thrust into the role of "interim CEO" and company savior.
What happened next was a series of conquests that far exceeded anyone's expectations and returned Apple to the role of technology superpower. These conquests also anointed Steve Jobs with the reputation of being a mix between warrior and magician.